Brief Review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0

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I’ve been trying out the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, which is a very nicely priced Android Ice Cream Sandwich tablet at $249. I recently returned the Transformer Prime to ASUS* due to a number of issues that I simply couldn’t resolve, and I was hoping that the GT2 would serve as a low-cost way to remain familiar with Android tablets while I put the iPad through the ringer.

As it turns out, I’ll probably be sending the GT 2 back, but not because it’s a bad device. It’s actually very well made and offers inexpensive access to (almost) the entire Android ecosystem (minus some Amazon content that’s only available on the Kindle Fire). However, it has two major weaknesses that make it less useful for me.

Screen Resolution
While the GT 2 has a relatively bright screen with decent colors and text, it also has a 1024X600 resolution. While it’s nowhere near the new iPad’s excellent resolution, text and images look just fine on the GT 2’ 7” screen. And, the size is convenient and comfortable for ebook reading in portrait mode, almost (but not quite) good enough to make it preferable to the iPad for longer reading sessions.

Unfortunately, some many Android apps see the GT 2 as a phone, and run in either phone mode or a limited tablet mode that highlights exacerbates the already frustrating scarcity of Android tablet apps. In fact, some apps (for example, Adobe Photoshop Touch) don’t show up in Google Play as available for the GT 2 at all.

Therefore, while the the GT 2 is a nice device if you’re okay with running Android phone apps or simply want to use it as an ebook reader (and haven’t taken a good long look at the iPad’s incredibly good text), it’s not a good option if you want to use it as an Android tablet.

Email Client
Overall, I like what Samsung’s done with the Touchwiz skin on the GT 2. It doesn’t slow things down too much, and offers some additional customization options for the home screens that extend but don’t usually get in the way of what Ice Cream Sandwich has to offer.

The Samsung email client, however, is a glaring example. As far as I can tell, it offers no significant advantages over the stock email app, and it’s unbearably slow. Updating email and reading messages can take forever, it seems, making it a poor choice for quick email triage. The Gmail app is nice and quick, and so there’s nothing inherent in the device that explains such poor email performance. Samsung needs to fix things, and quickly.

Conclusion
I can confidently recommend the GT 2 for anyone on a tight budget and who wants a nice, small, highly portable device for accessing the complete Android ecosystem (with the exception of some Android tablet apps). It’s a great alternative to the new iPad for ebook reading, with good enough text that still isn’t as comfortable as the iPad’s. And for the most part, its performance is commendable for such an affordable device. In fact, it makes a great adjunct device to the iPad, providing a taste of both worlds while Android tablet makers work to provide the same level of smoothness and excellent display of the iPad.

You might find that the screen’s resolution to somewhat severely limits the tablet app selection, however, and you might find email frustratingly sluggish. Even so, I recommend that you give the GT 2 a try, but make sure you buy from somewhere with an adequate return policy. Those two weaknesses might just be enough to render the device a poor choice compared to more expensive, but also better performing, option unless you’re looking to spend more money on a higher-end Android tablet or iPad.

Update: I tested more apps, and actually more run as tablet apps (albeit showing less information) than I thought. So, that changes my conclusion a bit. I’ll report back if I find many more apps than Adobe Photoshop Touch that don’t show up specifically on the GT 2.

*Yes, ASUS provided a refund for the Transformer Prime, dock, and even 3rd-party case, as part of its ongoing efforts to resolve a number of issues with the Prime due to its poor wifi and GPS performance. I’m disappointed in the Prime overall, but must commend ASUS for taking the high road when it comes to making things right for the customer.

Update 2: Well, this post is putting a little egg on my face… I did a factory reset on the GT 2, and performance is significantly improved. This often happens with Android devices (indeed, with all computing devices), and something must have clogged up the works from the first GT 2 update that was available immediately after I bought my unit. Email now performs acceptably well. Overall, while it’s not the fastest Android tablet on the market, it’s adequate in comparison to other lower-priced models.

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